Thursday, April 3, 2014

New Release Beach Plum Island - author interview - Holly Robinson

I'm happy to bring another new to me author to The Reading Frenzy. Please welcome Holly Robinson who is here today to talk about her newly released Novel Beach Plum Island and a little about herself too. I'm sure once you read our interview and learn a bit more about this novel you, like me will be running to your nearest bookseller to get your own copy.


  • ISBN-13: 9780451241023
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Pages: 400


“Your brother should know the truth.”

These are the last cryptic words that Ava Barrett’s father says before he dies. But Ava doesn’t have a brother, as far as she knows, so how can she tell him the truth? She dismisses the conversation and dedicates herself to bringing her family together for her father’s funeral.

Hi Holly, Welcome to The Reading Frenzy!
Thanks so much for having me!  I love your blog—you've introduced me to so many great new authors! 
Aw Thanks :)

Tell us a little about your new release, Beach Plum Island
Like most novelists, I have a junk drawer mind.  Everything goes in there, and I do mean everything:  family stories, books I've read, snippets of conversation I overhear in line at the grocery store, interesting houses, dogs at the dog park.  Yep.  It's in my junk drawer mind, and every now and then something surfaces to the top.  In this case, it was a story my mom told me about babysitting for a family in her small town in Maine.  When the parents told her the kids were asleep and she could watch TV or do homework, but under NO circumstances should she go into the back bedroom, what did she do?  Of course:  she went to that bedroom and opened the door.  A little blind boy came running out.  My mother was terrified and couldn't understand why the family had hidden this child in a back bedroom.  In my novel, there is that scene, and the main plot revolves around a blind boy who is given up for adoption.  The story is told from the points of view of three sisters who are determined to find him when their father dies and tells them they have a brother they never knew about.  It's my favorite kind of novel:  an emotional family mystery.

Holly, I’m still smiling thinking of your bio and your being an “accidental” writer.
You are so right about fate intervening. My daughter is a classically trained multi-degreed opera singer who never sang a note before her sophomore year in high school and it was also an elective class.
If you never would have chosen that class do you think you’d still be a vet or a doctor? 
That's a great question!  And congratulations to your amazing daughter for following her passion!  You know, I think I would still have been a writer, only I might have become a doctor first and started by writing about what it was like to be a doctor in Nepal or Mexico.  That memoir would have turned into a novel, and I'd be on the same path I'm on now, only with an easier way to pay the mortgage, maybe.

You started out writing articles for magazines.
Do you still dip you toes in those venues?
Oh yes.  I love writing articles and essays for magazines.  I learn so much by interviewing people and doing research for articles.  And I love writing essays because they're like short stories:  I inject a lot of dialogue and there's a similar narrative trajectory.  Though the good thing about essays is that they take a week to write instead of a year! 

Since your literary road wasn’t always smooth sailing.
What would you say is the most important lesson you learned about the entire writing/publishing process?
You have to believe in yourself enough to keep going even when it seems you're not getting anywhere.  I think that's a tough thing, especially when these days most families require two incomes to make ends meet, as ours does, and you're working and juggling kids and the house.  You have to have enough faith in your stories, whatever they are, to keep telling them even if you can only do it for half an hour in the car while you're waiting for your son at track practice, or after midnight when the kids are asleep and the dishes are done.  The best way to do this is to surround yourself with other writers who are struggling as you are, so that you have the support network and cheerleaders you need to keep forging ahead.

Holly, do your books sit on a certain genre shelf?
Many people hate the phrase “women's fiction” because they see that as limiting, but I do think that's where most publishers would categorize my novels for marketing purposes.  I think of my books as family mysteries, as I said earlier—novels that have fully-formed characters who are typically in crisis and going through difficult emotional upheavals, but with a plot at the core that keeps the reader turning pages to find out what happened before the book began, and what will happen next.

I have to tell you I love your titles.
Have you always thought them up on your own?
I'm very lucky to have an amazing editor who helps me think through things like the structure of my novels and titles, too.  I basically think of titles and then she helps me decide if they'll work.  I'm a big believer in the importance of setting in a novel—I love atmospheric writing where the settings symbolize something besides just a place.  For instance, in Beach Plum Island, the main setting is a barrier island that is gradually eroding away and changing shape, just like the life of one of the main characters, Ava, a single mom with two teenaged sons whose life is suddenly in upheaval.  I usually try to title my novels to evoke that main emotional landscape.

What was the biggest difference between writing non-fiction and fiction?
For me, writing nonfiction is much easier.  It's almost like solving crossword puzzles:  very relaxing, because you know all you have to do is try different solutions and the letters will eventually line up correctly.  With novels, I have a lot more stop-start writing in the beginning as I feel my way through the different characters to see what their voices really sound like, and often it takes me a few tries to see where the novel should “really” start so that I don't load the prose up with too much back story and slow things down.

Are you the same writer today you were when you first started?
Oh, gosh, no.  I've learned a lot about putting novels together—see the answer above about back story and writing a synopsis, for instance.  I'm also older than when I first started writing, of course, and I think that aging has given me a much deeper sense of empathy for different sorts of people at various stages of life, from children to the elderly.  That life perspective helps me infuse my books with much more emotion.

Holly, thanks for answering my questions today. Good Luck with the new novel.
Will there be any author events/signings soon?
Thank you so much!  This has been a blast!  And, yes, there will be a book launch at my local bookstore, Jabberwocky, on April 11, and I'll be appearing at various bookstores and libraries.  Readers can email me at to find out if there's going to be an event near where they live.

Holly Robinson is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, Huffington Post, Ladies' Home Journal, More, Open Salon, andParents. She is the author of one previous novel, The Wishing Hill and a memoir, The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter. Robinson holds a B.A. in biology from Clark University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She and her husband have five children, two cats, a grumpy hamster, and two very stubborn small dogs.  

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  1. Thanks again for letting me stop by your wonderful site, Debbie. It's a pleasure to meet you here!

    1. Holly It was my pleasure!!!
      Thanks for stopping by :)

  2. This author is totally new to me Debbie. Thanks for introducing Holly to us. I think it is great she is writing fiction.

  3. Ohmyword. That's crazy about her mom and the babysitting. I so want to hear the rest of that story (and the one that resulted because of it). How fascinating and jaw dropping too! New to me author too :)